Hundreds of people affected by historic flooding last week in Lake County sought help and supplies Thursday at a newly opened Multi-Agency Resource Center set up at the old Garden Fresh Center grocery store in Round Lake Beach.
Twenty-seven agencies -- including national relief organizations like The Salvation Army and American Red Cross, government entities like the Illinois attorney general's office, and church groups like Catholic Charities of Lake County and Southern Baptist Church -- had representatives there to help flood victims.
Those seeking assistance filled out forms, then waited for their turns to visit with the various agencies. Before leaving they could fill a shopping cart with donated items, including food, water and cleaning supplies.
Antioch Township resident Eric Wright arrived looking for help to remove the 8 feet of water that flooded the basement of his home on the north bank of Lake Marie.
Wright said his family home normally stands 15 to 20 feet from the lake, but now they are completely surrounded by water. The sandbag wall they built was knocked over, so now they can hear waves slapping up against the side of their house.
Their faucet shoots out green water that smells like fish, the family dog needs to be carried to a nearby hill so it can do its business, and it's been so hot they have to keep the windows open, letting in flies and mosquitoes.
"It's kind of sad, really," Wright said.
Fellow flood victim Anita Harris moved into a recently furnished garden apartment in Park City a few months ago. When floodwaters rushed in last week, she found herself suddenly without a place to live and, without family or friends in the area, she had nowhere to go.
"I didn't have anybody to help me," Harris said Thursday. "I felt so alone."
She's been staying at Red Cross shelters since July 12.
"They have been so wonderful to me. You are going to get me to start crying," Harris said. "The red and white will stay with me for life."
Harris left the resource center Thursday with a shopping cart full of essential supplies, including cleaning kits, food, water and toiletries.
Maj. David Dalberg of the Salvation Army said the focus is giving people the basic supplies they'll need to deal with the immediate problems and also arm them with support and information they will need in the coming weeks.
Dalberg spent his time Thursday leading clients around the center. One man he helped told him he was glad someone was thinking beyond just getting through the next day.
"We don't want to just quickly process people," Dalberg said. "We want to learn their story and what it is like for them."
Red Cross volunteer David Roth came up from his home in Oak Park to help out. He said that of the seven previous resource centers where he's helped, the Round Lake Beach one was the most organized despite being one of the biggest and busiest. After just two hours Thursday, 166 people had filled out forms.
"Local agencies really stepped up with little notice," Roth said.
Those living in the flood zone will have to endure until the waters eventually recede. Wright said the water was beginning to go down around his home, but the rain Wednesday night negated some of that progress.
It's hard for people who don't live with the flood to understand what he's going through, he said.
"I was at the dollar store and I asked them to put what I bought in plastic bags because I was going to have to go through the floodwater. The lady looked at me and said 'Why?'" Wright said. "It's like we're living in two different worlds."
The center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.